Halifax regional councillors have voted to accept a deal between the province and HRM on Joe Ramia’s $500 million Nova Centre project.
In a vote that took place just after 12 noon, council voted 19-4 on the approval of the memorandum agreement for the downtown convention centre. They also voted 20-3 on the approval for HRM staff to find a municipal use for old World Trade and Convention Centre and 16-8 on spending $40,000 for a provincial advertising campaign.
A staff report on the deal, released Monday afternoon, shows increased property taxes are expected to offset HRM’s estimated $6 million annual cost for the centre. It also allows the municipality to defer payment to the province for up to 10 years should the annual cost of the centre proposed for Argyle Street exceed the increase in revenues.
“(The deal) commits HRM to a substantial annual cost of just over $6 million to pay for the construction, operation and maintenance of the new convention centre,” reads the memorandum of agreement.
“(HRM’s proposed) strategy focuses on using new property taxes from the entire site … to offset the lease costs for the convention centre.”
Nowhere in the staff report does it indicate the projected increase in property taxes related to Ramia’s project. Exact figures cannot “be determined until such time as the site is constructed and operating.”
According to the MOU, the facility is now slated to be complete in January 2016.
Ramia, the head of Rank Inc., declined to comment Monday.
“I don’t want interfere with the political process,” Ramia said. “So we’ll let that happen and see where that falls.”
The proposed MOU doesn’t significantly diverge from what former Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Estabrooks and Mayor Peter Kelly announced in December 2010.
The lease would still last 25 years, with two options to renew for five years, and an option to buy the facility outright for $1 after 22 or 30 years.
The cost of the facility – as well as the property taxes and potential operating deficits related to the convention centre – would still be split 50/50.
The municipality would still have the right to buy the existing World Trade and Convention Centre, estimated at a book value of $12.8 million in 2010, from the province. — Metro News